Report: Russian Dark-Web Site Responsible for Massive Drug Deals
Western risk intelligence companies monitoring threatening activity on the internet claim that Hydra, a Russian language site hosted on the Dark Web, is responsible for facilitating some US$1.37 billion worth of drug deals.
joint report by Flashpoint and Chainalysis, revealed.“Hydra acts as a host for sellers to set up and run their own narcotics shops, with Hydra profiting as the intermediary for all executed transactions conducted,” a recent
“Due to its reputable narcotics products and wide range of sellers, Hydra serves an increasingly diverse buyer clientele, ranging from larger wholesale narcotics buyers to individual recreational users, including students and young people,” it said.
The dark web marketplace only broke onto the scene in 2015, but in the six years since its inception it has exploded in popularity, taking the place of a former competitor, the Russian Anonymous Marketplace RAMP, which was shut down by Russian authorities in 2017.
“RAMP was notorious for taking down its competition by conducting DDoS attacks and reporting names and IP addresses of competitor operators to authorities,” the report said.
Unlike other dark-web illegal marketplaces which are sometimes run by a single or small group of hackers, Hydra is believed to have dozens of employees keeping it up.
According to flashpoint and chainalysis “Hydra entered the market with a business model related to its mythical namesake: if you cut off one head, two more will grow back in its place,” the report said.
To that end, the site has made a name for itself due to its strict security policies, offering greater anonymity than other dark web marketplaces. While most trades are conducted online through crypto currencies, Hydra actually requires its sellers to take their ultimate profits out in Russian fiat currency, which makes them particularly hard to track.
With a limited amount of crypto to cash exchanges in Russia, criminals are also having to resort to creative methods to receive their money. One popular practice is known as “hidden treasure” or in Russian, “Klad.”
“This physical withdrawal technique calls upon customer buyers to hire designated couriers (“kladmen”) to bury cash underground in vacuum-sealed bags within specific agreed-upon locations for the sellers to dig up later,” the report explained.
“Once the physical cash is secured in the physical hands of the seller, they then complete the narcotics sale, either burying the sold products or shipping them out as has been done historically,” it said.
For their labor, kladmen can make as much as $400 a day, according to the report.
Despite the extra hassle, Hydra’s cliente is only growing.
“Hydra seller accounts are in high demand, with a new sub-market emerging for cybercriminals willing to pay those with established seller accounts to gain direct access to the marketplace to circumvent Hydra withdrawal restrictions,” the report said.